EMC, Dell launch Piranha SAN

EMC Corp. and Dell Inc. Wednesday announced their lowest-priced array that can be preconfigured as a storage-area network (SAN) with backup and management software. EMC CEO Joe Tucci painted the market for the product, called Piranha, with a broad brush, saying it will span everything from small businesses to distributed enterprises.

At US$9,999, the new AX100 array is the lowest-priced array EMC has offered. It's part of the Clariion series that uses Serial Advanced Technology Attachment disk.

The AX100 starts at $5,999 with 480GB capacity, but it can be bundled with Brocade Communication System's new 3250 eight-port switch, Q-Logic Corp.'s SLA200 host bus adapter and EMC's Legato division RepliStore and NetWorker software for $9,999, according to Mike Wytenus, senior direct of EMC's Clariion platforms.

Dell's chief operating officer, Kevin Rollins, said customers who aren't IT professionals can set up the AX100 and operate it in just four steps that will take less than one hour.

Asked during a news conference Wednesday whether Dell and EMC are looking to trigger a price war in networked storage, Rollins replied, "It wouldn't be the worst thing to happen. We fully expect this product to change the storage industry by increasing the number of customers able to afford and use networked storage."

Tucci sniped at his market competition, saying that other vendors see Serial ATA disk drives only as secondary storage, while "this is the real McCoy. This is going to be primary storage for this market. It's got the availability and the performance to meet all the requirements for that market."

John McArthur, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said the AX100 puts EMC in a position to compete for market share against internal storage vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Dell itself.

"Right now, Dell takes them to a space they were having challenges getting to. Over time, it could end up in some competition between them," McArthur said.

Rollins described the collaboration with EMC on the AX100 array as being closer "than any other product in our portfolio."

The AX100 scales from 480GB to 3TB and has enterprise-class features such as dual redundant controllers, dual 2GB/sec. Fibre Channel I/O ports on each controller, path fail-over and snapshot capability. The AX100 also supports high-availability features such as RAID 5, hot-swappable drives, dual power supplies and fans.

The 2.5-in.-high array comes with 12 Serial ATA drives in either 160GB or 250GB capacities and can host up to eight servers in a SAN, networked-attached storage or direct-attached storage configuration. The AX100 supports the Windows, Linux and NetWare operating systems.

Tucci said the AX100 would soon be able to natively use the Internet SCSI protocol, which is used to transport block-level data from database servers over Ethernet to storage systems. He also described the AX100 as well suited for enterprise-class customers such as banks, brokerages and retail stores with remote offices that are looking to consolidate servers and simplify backup.

Tucci made it clear that the AX100 will be sold only through channel partners -- except in cases where large quantities are involved in a single sale.

But according to McArthur, for the AX100 to play in the enterprise marketplace, it would need remote monitoring tools and predictive diagnostics, "so parts can be shipped out to branches in spares before something fails. It's really about remote support." He also said it would be important for the AX100 to interoperate with EMC's enterprise-class management platform, EMC ControlCenter, to allow storage administrators centralized control of the box.

Wytenus said that would "happen at some point."

Matt Ebaugh, CIO at Commonwealth Health Corp. in Bowling Green, Ky., agreed that he wouldn't be interested in the AX100 unless it could help him centralize control of his storage architecture. "I only want one SAN fabric in my enterprise," Ebaugh said. "SAN islands require more administration."

In a report released today, market research firm Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, Mass., said it expects that Dell will be very successful with the new Fibre Channel SAN offering.

A survey conducted this month by Enterprise Storage Group of small to midsize businesses and enterprises showed that "31 percent would expect Dell to deliver a networked storage solution specifically tailored for their needs ... beating out competitors such as HP (selected by 18 percent or respondents), IBM (15 percent of respondents) and 12 other storage vendors."

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